The Pahrump Valley Times sat down with Lisa Chamlee this week. She is the county’s newest public defender, earning an annual contract worth $150,000 on June 30. She joins four other local attorneys who provide legal defense services to indigent clients.
Chamlee is a graduate of the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is married to a Nye County sheriff’s deputy as well and is a mother of three.
Q: Are you a Nevada native, where are you from?
A: I was raised in a military family. So I grew up kind of all over. I lived in Europe, Asia, the United States. I’ve lived in Nevada almost 25 years. My dad was a senior master sergeant when he retired. He worked mostly in avionics on fighter jets. He’s also a retired postal service employee. I’m the oldest of three, I have a younger brother and a younger sister.
Q: Describe your education, where did you go to school?
A: I attended primarily Department of Defense dependent schools because we traveled overseas quite a bit. I was fortunate to receive a terrific education through DoD schools.
Q: You had a career before becoming a lawyer, what was it?
A: My senior year of high school, we had just moved from Japan to Las Vegas. I was the singer in a band starting at age 17 and that began a long career performing at Las Vegas Strip casino lounges with various local bands. I had a recording career and was a songwriter. I did that as my primary living for almost 10 years.
Q: Why did you want to become a lawyer?
A: I had a daughter at the age of 25 and divorced her father about a year later. We went through a custody dispute. At the time I could not afford to hire a lawyer. I was fortunate to receive pro bono assistance from a lawyer whom I remain friends with in my custody dispute. Having received that I was just amazed at the difference you can make in someone’s life. I thought, by the time I hit 30, you know, if I haven’t achieved all my aspirations in music, I think I will pursue a career in law. When I turned 30, I was done with my music career and decided to go back to school, finish my undergraduate degree and go to law school.
Q: What brought you to Pahrump?
A: After I was admitted to the Nevada bar, I became employed with Stovall &Associates in September 2011. I started working in their Las Vegas office and an opportunity presented itself to come work in the Pahrump office for Mr. Stovall. I agreed to start doing that. I did the commute from Vegas for about 10 months and after managing the Pahrump office decided to move out to Pahrump, move my family out here and make this my home.
Q: How many kids do you have?
A: I have a nine-month-old son, an 8-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.
Q: What was it like to go after this contract and get it?
A: I put in an interest on doing some PD work with Pam Webster (Nye County manager). I was very excited. I was a little bit surprised, but pleasantly so. I’m really enjoying it. It’s a little rough right now. I just signed a lease for some office space and I’m interviewing for an assistant. I have to hire one immediately. I’ve been putting in a lot of hours in the day just to make sure I’m prepared for my court appearances and meeting with clients. It’s a little bit hectic, but I’m learning the ropes pretty fast.
Q: What do you say to clients who might be anxious about having such a youthful attorney representing them?
A: Obviously having only practiced for three years, though I did get a lot of experience practicing at Stovall, I think some of the advantages of having a young lawyer is that you are going to have someone who is diligent. I really am a veteran for the cause. I am interested in doing criminal defense work because I believe it is important under our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. You need to have defense lawyers making sure the police and district attorneys are following the rules of evidence and that they are not violating constitutional rights of defendants. So I am the lawyer that is going to take a hard look at the facts of the case. I’m not afraid to take a case to trial if I believe the facts there are strong and the client wants to do that. You’re getting a diligent attorney who is new, is hungry and wants to work hard.
Chamlee joins contract public defenders Chris Arabia, Harry Gensler, Jason Earnest and Nathan Gent, who all saw their contracts renewed on June 30. Chamlee’s office is located at 2280 E. Calvada Blvd. Ste. 203. She can be reached at 775-538-5004.